Being in possession of an offensive t-shirt

June 6th, 2008


I read on the BBC news web site the other day that a gentleman was not allowed through security at Heathrow Terminal 5 because he was wearing a t-shirt with the image of a gun on it.

The security drones were quoted as saying such things as:

We can’t let you through and you’ve a gun on your T-shirt.

That would be the image of a gun, not an actual gun. In fact, the image of a cartoon gun being wielded by a Transformer. That’s right, an alien robot. A fictional, toy, alien robot. So not even an image of a gun that could actually hurt people.

If a T-shirt had a rude word or a bomb on it, for example, a passenger may be asked to remove it.

A rude word, fair enough, because that would be an actual rude word and not simply an allusion to a rude word. Being asked to remove an actual bomb, I’m right on board with that approach, but an image of a bomb? Tasteless, perhaps, when boarding a plane, but likely to explode?

I have noticed recently in the UK that people are no longer asked to remove their shoes when going through security. So either security forces now have absolute proof that no one is ever going to try to blow up a plane with a shoe again, or… it was never a real threat in the first place and scanning people’s shoes was just a security pantomime. Hmmm… which seems more likely to you?

And don’t get me started on liquids. OK now that you have, I’ll make my point. Just because two idiots thought they could mix chemicals together on a plane and make a bomb doesn’t mean that it is actually feasible. Can anybody point me to the scientific research that shows it is possible? I haven’t been able to find it. But because authorities gave credence to those idiots, none of us can carry liquids onto a plane. Of course, it would be impossible to get an airport employee who works in the departures area to smuggle in a case of explosive liquids disguised as, I don’t know… water maybe.

And of course we aren’t allowed to carry on anything sharp or flammable, but then they sell us alcohol in breakable glass bottles.

Next they’ll be telling us that two idiots figured out a way to imbibe chemicals and that to set them off, all they have to do is exchange bodily fluids. So then you won’t be allowed to board a plane unless you can prove that you are clinically dehydrated and even then you won’t be allowed to snog on board.

I believe it’s all about keeping people scared. Keep them scared and they will give you more power, in principle to protect them. But why would politicians want more power? Well, if you have to ask the question…

Yes, there have been terrorist attacks. But you don’t prevent terrorist attacks by having people strip to their underpants and put their cosmetics in a see-through plastic bag. Terrorists will always find a way around those measures.

Security at airports is, in principle, about stopping people causing havoc on the planes themselves. I say “in principle” because I feel the measures are mostly for show. What is to stop a suicide bomber from attacking the airport itself? It has already been tried using a primitive car bomb. Was the result security checks on the roads leading in to airports? No, because the authorities knew that would cause chaos and security isn’t worth it if the price is chaos, especially when security is largely a shadow-play anyway.

Of course, the terrorists could take a simpler and cheaper approach to causing havoc, they can just arrange a flash mob to meet at a selected airport, all wearing t-shirts depicting Transformers. There would be a security melt-down, the airport would grind to a halt and best of all (from the terrorists’ point of view) it wouldn’t even be illegal.

Don't let airport security catch you wearing one of these!

3 Responses to “Being in possession of an offensive t-shirt”

  1. Muurfmannon 06 Jun 2008 at

    It’s all about the illusion of security. Security restrictions make traveling is a total pain in the ass – so I MUST be safer. I say give all passengers baseball bats as they board.

    In terms of annoying co-passengers – my worst all involve:

    a) long haul international travel
    b) screaming children
    c) parents desperately trying to pretend it’s not that annoying

    My ultimate solution… Anesthesia Airways – check in, lights out, arrive refreshed.

  2. Declan Chellaron 07 Jun 2008 at

    Perfect solution! I love it.
    Saves you from the boredom of flying and incapacitates terrorists at the same time.

  3. Rowan Manahanon 08 Jun 2008 at

    Tony Benn once pointed out that “An educated, confident and healthy nation is harder to govern.” Hmmmmmm.

    I have a client who was head of security for a major British airport. He told me all the security ‘pantomine’ is designed to stop two risk types – (1) straight-up nutcases who flip out and may be a harm to themselves or others on board a plane and (2) tabloid journalists who persist in smuggling knives, safety razors and play-doh bombs rigged with colourful wiring to alarm clocks. All of which give the journalists a cool front page story that sells a few thousand more papers that day.

    “No terrorist will ever be deterred by the kinds of measures we can apply to the broad mass of travellers,” he told me. “The only way to really achieve that kind of safety is to start applying profiling – and that’s simply not politically palatable, so it’s never going to happen.”

    In the meantime, I have to dump my toothpaste from my hand baggage because some disenchanted person who fits a certain racial and religious profile started wondering if he could apply some of the ‘chemistry’ he had seen in Die Hard 3 in the real world. Sheesh!

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